The price of 4G handsets looks set to tumble after the CEO of EE said the coming months will see new devices targeting more parts of the market.
EE has been criticised for the higher cost and low data allowances of some of its 4G tariffing. It is the only operator to offer a next generation proposition, with rivals O2, Vodafone and Three set to launch their own in the coming months.
The operator announced last week it was targeting one million customers on 4G by Christmas and also said it would double speeds and capacity at no extra cost. It will roll the service out to 10 cities – Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester and Sheffield – by the summer. Consumers will be able to download data at average speeds of 20MBps. The operator expects 98% of the population will be covered by the faster speeds by the end of next year.
EE CEO Olaf Swantee was critical of rival operators, singling out Vodafone’s ‘4G Ready’ campaign, and said preparing a device to fit onto a 4G network took time. He said: ‘It takes heavy lifting to make a device work…You can’t buy a device and bang it on a network. When I look at our competitors, I am surprised they have a 4G ready device when they don’t have a 4G network. I have seen how many hours and engineers that make a 4G device work on a 4G network.’
Speaking to Mobile, EE’s director of network services, Tom Bennett, said it takes anything from three to 18 months to prepare a device for use on a 4G network. However, he added that manufacturers were working well with the operator. He said: ‘For the first time, we have to drive the agenda. We do see the difference in their approach in how they work with us.’
Swantee said the decision to start doubling 4G speeds was always planned. He said one in four new customers are choosing its 4G service, with as much as 40% of Orange and T-Mobile customers opting for 4G when they upgrade. More propositions, products and services will be offered by EE in the next few months, as it faces competition from its rivals.
Swantee said: ‘We are working with a number of device manufacturers to democratise 4G and to make it available to more segments [of the market]. 4G-ready devices are more in the higher end segments. I am very confident in the next couple of months that we will see more devices hitting other price points.’
Author: Graeme Neill